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Selling Real Houses With Imaginary Ones

Posted by: Maya Roney on August 7, 2007

Too lazy to go home hunting? Hate people? Like computers? You’re in luck— a $3.1 million home in Mercer Island, Wash. is now available for showing in the virtual world.

Second LifeScreenSnapz002.jpg

It’s also a real home in the real world, of course, listed by Coldwell Banker Bain on their Web site. But the 3-D reproduction is located in Second Life, the Internet-based virtual world developed by privately-held Linden Lab. Here, Second Life resident avatars can “walk” through each room of the house and click through to the actual listing if interested.

This is the first time a national real estate brand has used the virtual community to market an individual home, though Coldwell Banker already has a sales office in Second Life and an inventory of more than 500 properties there. Since the company entered the community in March, they have generated more than 130,000 visitors.

Coldwell Banker says they are “taking home selling to a new level” with this new service. But it seems like everyone has gone Second Life crazy. Is this really the future? It seems more like another attention-getting marketing tactic than a realistic way to sell a home. But you have to admit it’s kind of cool. Click here for access.

Reader Comments

Jefferson Otwell

August 7, 2007 7:53 PM

BTW, I love your first line or so! Of course this is a fad yet of course it is cool. I think it is rather edgy and fun to do something different when listing in this buyer's market.

Brandon W

August 8, 2007 7:49 AM

Second Life has almost 9 million registered users, though many people have more than one account and many people don't stay users. So let's say half those registrations are actually active users (and I still think that's high). That's 4.5 million people. A lot of those people are kids. A lot of those people don't have a Real life that will let them afford to buy a house. That leaves us with just a handful of adult users with enough time on their hands to waste hours in a virtual world, but somehow manage to make a decent living in the Real one. I don't see real estate in the virtual world being a very viable proposition. They ought to be focusing on the 295 million other Americans that have a Real life.


August 9, 2007 12:31 PM

Fortunately, some of those other 295 million people aren't as humorless as Mr. W. How does he know that there are "just a handful of adult users," for starters? What if Coldwell is simply trying to be where some of its potential and future customers are? I think that's called "marketing." And incidently, W, how many hours of TV do you watch per week?


August 9, 2007 1:22 PM

I think it's a marketing gimmick, but there may be a good chance to draw foot traffic into the home and also because it's so unique that people talk about it at social gatherings and being written in blogs that people just check it out out of curiosity.


August 10, 2007 10:49 AM

I'll have to agree with Brandon but the fact that Coldwell has been a first mover on Secondlife is advantageous by itself. If they sell 0 homes from this at least they have received a lot of press to promote their brand.

Brandon W

August 10, 2007 12:26 PM

Dan, I do agree with your point that they've gotten a lot of press out of this. As a marketer, I can appreciate that.

AndyJ, I don't watch more than about an hour of television per week - incidentally or otherwise. Many weeks I don't watch TV at all. It's a mind-boggling waste of time. As to your point about marketing, I agree with Dan's perspective on the use of a Second Life presence as a publicity stunt. It is my personal opinion that it won't terribly useful at convincing "future potential customers" of anything.


August 10, 2007 1:40 PM

I don't think this is a gimmick at all. It's one heck of an idea. With an upgraded and detailed graphics engine, this could be a HUGE tool of the future. I work in real estate and this is the type of thinking that can have a profound effect on the industry.

Imagine, if you will, a list of Sunday Open Houses available in your area. Pretend you're a're thinking of going to a few of these open houses. Some spread out all over the place. So you get into your car and go check them out. You can guarantee a lot of the houses will not be what you are looking for. Now...don't you wish you could have discovered that before you wasted your time for the drive? Tons of pictures don't do justice to stepping into the front door and walking around. And virtual tours? Many rooms and nooks and crannies of the house usually get missed.

Having this ability to "walk through" a virtual house would prevent the wasting of the time. Just imagine if they can graphically nail 100% of the detail? Or get close to an environment like you do see in Grand Theft Auto??? Especially the latest version, IV.

Why waste my time driving to walking through the house if I can get a good idea online? Sure plenty of people will still want to go in person...but the majority of people, of this Generation, want to do everything from the PC. News, Games, Shopping.

I can picture a Real Estate site of the future offering every listing of theirs virtually as well as what you see today with pictures and fish-eye tours.

It's all going to come down to how well it can be done graphically and with detail. Just imagine if neighborhoods could be done too? That could be a good or bad thing actually...but this day and age, people want as much information as you can give....or they will find it elsewhere.

Chrischun Fassbinder

August 18, 2007 6:32 PM

To take a tour of the virtual home, just visit Coldwell Banker Headquarters within Second Life located in the Ranchero sim (200,250), use the following SLURL or search under places for "Coldwell Banker".

For the record, design, execution, and ongoing maintenance of the Coldwell Banker presence in Second Life is handled by Code4Software LLC

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BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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